COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sounding like a grizzled manager referring to his shut-down relief pitcher, Urban Meyer called Kenny Guiton “the old right-hander.”
Come to think of it, maybe Guiton is No. 3 Ohio State’s closer.
He took over when Braxton Miller left with a sprained left knee, running for one touchdown and passing for two on Saturday while keeping the Buckeyes right on task with a 42-7 victory over San Diego State.
The win extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 14 in a row.
“The old right-hander steps in again,” Meyer said with a grin. “He really did a nice job. He’s too slow, not strong-enough armed and all he does is lead, manage, distribute and has an incredible knowledge of the game. And incredible leadership skills.
“And our players respond.”
Miller watched the last three quarters from the sideline after being sandwiched between two tacklers on the Buckeyes’ seventh offensive play. The Buckeyes (2-0) didn’t need him.
“I think I’ve heard coach Meyer say he’s as good a backup quarterback as there is in the country,” said a frustrated Rocky Long, coach of the Aztecs (0-2). “I don’t know how they decide which one starts, to be honest with you. They’re both of them very good players.”
Meyer said Miller wasn’t hurt badly.
“We had a long discussion on the sideline. I think he could have (returned),” Meyer said. “But the things that make him dangerous are his wheels and I don’t think it would have been (the same). So we decided it was best not to. I think there’s a chance he’ll be ready next week.”
The Buckeyes play at California in their first road game.
Guiton, who helped save Ohio State’s 12-0 season a year ago, had the most playing time he’s ever had in a game. He set career bests with 19 of 28 passing for 152 yards and 83 rushing yards. In his 16 games coming in, he had completed 14 of 25 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions with just 59 yards rushing 14 attempts.
“I am joking: He does have a strong enough arm and he is fast enough,” Meyer said. “But he’s got to go in with a little more confidence. When he does, he’s fun to watch.”
Ohio State dominated from the outset, but a crowd of 104,984 at Ohio Stadium sat in stunned silence when Miller was injured on Ohio State’s first offensive series.
On fourth and 1 at the Aztecs 12, Miller carried to the right side and then cut back. He was trying to squirm for an extra yard or two when he was hit by defensive back King Holder while going backwards, with middle linebacker Jake Fely then hitting him and knocking his helmet off.
Miller lay on the turf for a short time, rubbing his head. He was attended by a doctor, and eventually left the field under his own power, although he limped slightly. A team physician on the bench manipulated his left knee and he grimaced in pain.
Miller was taken from the field on a cart.
In came Guiton, who on the very next play handed to freshman Dontre Wilson, who sprinted around end for a 7-yard score.
“I actually wasn’t that nervous. I prepared all week like a starter,” Guiton said. “Once I got in I took my first hit, got my first throw, after that it was just, ‘Let’s go.’”
The senior from Texas also tossed a 27-yard scoring pass to Corey Brown and then handed off to Jordan Hall for a 4-yard score with 3 seconds left in the first quarter. During the lull before the ensuing kickoff, Miller received a loud ovation as he jogged across the field from the ramp leading to the locker room to the Ohio State sideline.
Miller, wearing a large knee brace, remained on the sideline the rest of the game, never putting on a helmet but occasionally speaking to coach Urban Meyer and his teammates.
Meanwhile, Guiton was large and in charge.
“I did my best to try and lead in everything,” he said. “I tried to let my words be heard, tried to impact the team no matter what.”
Just like they did a week ago in rolling to a 23-0 lead, the Buckeyes got off to a big early lead. This time, however, they didn’t allow the opponent to get back in the game as Buffalo did in Ohio State’s 40-20 victory.
Guiton kept around the left side on a 44-yard scoring run. Rod Smith, coming off a one-game suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules, tacked on a 1-yard touchdown to make it 35-0 at the half.
It wasn’t the first time in which Guiton came on in relief of Miller and grabbed the spotlight.
Guiton had taken over for an injured Miller late in last season’s eighth game, against Purdue. Trailing by eight points with 47 seconds left at his own 35-yard line he led the Buckeyes to an improbable touchdown and then threw a 2-point conversion pass to force overtime. The Buckeyes won 29-22 on the way to the sixth unbeaten, untied season at the school.
Guiton hit a leaping Brown on a 24-yard scoring pass in the third quarter.
His only mistake was a second-quarter interception by cornerback Damontae Kazee — leaping, twisting, one-handed grab that will probably end up on a few highlight reels.
It was another disappointing outing for the Aztecs (0-2), who lost 40-19 to FCS Eastern Illinois at home in their opener.
“They’re a good football team but it’s on us again,” wide receiver Colin Lockett said. “They came out ready to play and we didn’t. The scoreboard shows it.”
San Diego State, which went 9-4 a year ago and played in a bowl game for the third season in a row, didn’t get on the board until late in the third quarter.
Backup quarterback Quinn Kaehler flipped a 2-yard scoring pass to Chad Young to make it 42-7. Kaehler, who completed 22 of 36 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown with one interception, took over for starter Adam Dingwell after he was intercepted by Doran Grant on the Aztecs’ second possession. Dingwell finished 0 for 5 passing with the pick.
“Everything we’re doing right now,” Long said, “is frustrating.”